It’s significant that the president spent a good part of his remarks on authorizing airstrikes against ISIS militants threatening Kurdistan and carrying out pograms, focused on promises not to generally reengage in Iraq:

“I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these,” he said. “I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”

On the face of it at least, the airtstrikes appear limited and appropriate to the opportunity and risk. The humanitarian emergency seems real enough. The strategic impact of ISIS overrunning the Kurdish capital would be large. Yes, Obama had hoped to avoid any limited military action in Iraq at least until such time as the country had a truly viable government. But an autonomous Kurdistan is a pretty important part of any future configuration in the region, and a constant obstacle to the creation of an ISIS megastate. Temporary airstrikes and aid to stabilize the situation seem sensible according to what we know (which may not be a lot) of the facts on the ground. Any “floodgates” fears would seem to ignore the bright line Obama has drawn against any ground troops under any circumstances.

Still, you cannot blame the president for muttering not just under his breath but aloud: “Not gonna have another Iraq War. Not gonna have another Iraq War.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.